Improving high street performance by communication

As part of a town or city’s marketing communications, communication strategies need to highlight retail change and need to encourage customers to change their shopping habits in a way that will sustain such change (Kirkup & Rafiq, 1999; Warnaby, Bennison, & Davies, 2005).

A good example of this is communicating changes in opening hours. For example, late night opening initiatives can fail if shoppers are unaware of the extended opening times.

Whilst place promotion and communication strategies to shoppers are, on the whole, improving; communication between traders on the High Street is very poor. A study we undertook in 2005 showed that only 40% of
SME traders were in any sort of network to receive information about their sector or location.

There is more commentary about communication contained in our blogs on collaboration, engagement and networks.


Kirkup, M. H., & Rafiq, M. (1999). Marketing shopping centres: challenges in the UK context. Journal of Marketing Practice: Applied Marketing Science, 5(5), 119–133.


Warnaby, G., Bennison, D., & Davies, B. J. (2005). Marketing communications in planned shopping centres: evidence from the UK. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 33(12), 893–904.


Top 10 downloads Journal of Place Management and Development

1. My city – my brand: the different roles of residents in place branding by Erik Braun, Mihalis Kavaratzis, Sebastian Zenker.
2. My place is not your place – different place brand knowledge by different target groupsby Sebastian Zenker, Suzanne C. Beckmann.
3. Places going viral: Twitter usage patterns in destination marketing and place brandingby Efe Sevin.
4. Slum tourism, city branding and social urbanism: the case of Medellin, Colombiaby Jaime Hernandez-Garcia.
5. International positioning through online city branding: the case of Chengdu by Emma Björner.
6. A study on the delivery of city branding advertisements in China: City branding advertisement on CCTV, 2007-2010 by Wen Chunying.
7. The business of place: critical, practical and pragmatic perspectives by Ares Kalandides.
8. Developing a collective capacity for place management by Tore Omholt.
9. University students’ needs and satisfaction with their host city by Andrea Insch and Benjamin Sun.
10. “Are you happy here?”: the relationship between quality of life and place attachment by António Joaquim Araújo de Azevedo, Maria João Ferreira Custódio and Fernando Pereira Antunes Perna


1. My city – my brand: the different roles of residents in place branding

Erik Braun, Mihalis Kavaratzis, Sebastian Zenker

Residents are largely neglected by place branding practices and their priorities are often misunderstood, even though they are not passive beneficiaries but are active partners and co-producers of public goods, services and policies. This paper highlights that only meaningful participation and consultation can produce a more effective and sustainable place brand strengthening brand communication and avoiding the pitfall of developing “artificial” place brands.

“The paper is based on theoretical insights drawn from the combination of the distinct literatures on place branding, general marketing, tourism, human geography, and collaborative governance. To support its arguments, the paper discusses the participation of citizens in governance processes as highlighted in the urban governance literature as well as the debate among marketing scholars over participatory marketing and branding.

The paper identifies three different roles played by residents: as an integral part of the place brand through their characteristics and behavior; as ambassadors for their place brand who grant credibility to any communicated message; and as citizens and voters who are vital for the political legitimization of place branding. These three roles make the residents a very significant target group of place branding.”

2. My place is not your place – different place brand knowledge by different target groups

Sebastian Zenker and Suzanne C. Beckmann

Place branding is increasingly popular in urban management. This paper highlights the challenge of diverse target audiences in this process and discusses implication for an advanced place brand management.

“Cities increasingly compete with each other for attracting tourists, investors, companies, or residents. Marketers therefore focus on establishing the city as a brand, disregarding that the perception and knowledge of a city differ dramatically between the target audiences. Hence, place branding should emphasize much more the perceptions of the different target groups and develop strategies for advanced place brand management. The aim of this paper is to assess the important discrepancies between the city brand perceptions of different target groups with the help of network analysis.

In two empirical studies, the important discrepancies between the city brand perceptions of different target groups are assessed with the help of network analysis. Study 1 consists of 40 qualitative in-depth-interviews and study 2 uses an online qualitative open-ended-question survey with 334 participants.

Structural differences for the city brand perceptions of two different target groups and the differences between perceptions of an external and internal target group are highlighted. The results and the managerial implications for place marketers are discussed.

The study investigates the brand associations for the city of Hamburg brand with two target groups and this limits the generalizability of the results. However, the focus was on measuring for the first time the difference in the place brand perception of different target group and the results helps to understand how an advanced place brand management could deal with this challenge.”

3. Places going viral: Twitter usage patterns in destination marketing and place branding

Efe Sevin.

The findings of this research have practical and theoretical implications. On the practical side, this research sheds light on how Twitter is utilized, and creates recommendations on how destination marketing projects can widen the broadcasting of messages and reach target audiences. On the theoretical side, this research tests the explanatory powers of Kavaratzis’ influential city branding framework.

“This is a comparative study of five Twitter accounts belonging to five destination marketing offices (@enjoyillinois, @onlyinsf, @visitidaho, @texastourism, and @visitmilwaukee). This research looks at two different types of communication activities on Twitter: one-way communication (i.e. broadcasting messages), and two-way communication (i.e. conversing with other users). A total of 5,582 tweets created between October 10, 2011 and October 10, 2012 were analyzed in terms of main topics and subjects covered, and main communication activities engaged.

The research found that destination marketing projects tend to use Twitter pre-dominantly to share about events – such as festivals, concerts, and fairs – taking place in their jurisdiction with their followers. These projects do not necessarily make use of interpersonal communication and networking capabilities of Twitter. Rather, this social media platform is used to distribute information online.”

4. Slum tourism, city branding and social urbanism: the case of Medellin, Colombia

Jaime Hernandez-Garcia

The purpose of this paper is to explore the contribution of informal settlements to a tourism strategy and to city branding. It takes the case of Medellin, Colombia, which in recent years has developed several projects in their barrios using a policy called: “social urbanism”.

“The paper is based on a case study, that of “social urbanism” in Medellin, and the relationship with what is called slum tourism and city branding. After a brief theoretical exploration about informal settlements in Latin America, slum tourism and city branding; the paper presents the urban and social transformation of Medellin’s dangerous and stigmatized barrios with the “social urbanism” policy. Then the relationship between social urbanism, informal settlements and city branding is discussed.

Medellin, perhaps without noticing or anticipating, has found a role for informal settlements in branding the city, and promoting tourism to those areas. With “social urbanism”, it is also helping to build an image of the city more authentic and distinguishable from other cities in Colombia and Latin America.”

5. International positioning through online city branding: the case of Chengdu

Emma Björner

The aim of the study is to add to the existing research on online city branding by studying how metropolitan cities are internationally positioned using the internet and online branding. The focus is on objectives and strategies, method and expression (including five illustrations), and challenges in online city branding.

“The article relies on a single-case study approach, using the Chinese city of Chengdu as a case and illustration. Methods used are interviews, observations and documentation (including online material). The study illustrates how Chengdu uses online city branding in its international positioning. Chengdu’s online branding is influenced by certain imagery, as well as challenges. Collaboration and endorsement crystalize as central elements in Chengdu’s online city branding.
The study offers insights to practitioners on how online city branding is carried out in a Chinese context and in the city of Chengdu.”

6. A study on the delivery of city branding advertisements in China: City branding advertisement on CCTV, 2007-2010

Wen Chunying

The purpose of this paper is to monitor the changes of delivery of city branding advertisements in China and to try to find a tendency of city branding ads in the delivery for the future.

“The quantitative research methods used in this paper study the advertisements with city image messages in 13 China Central Television (CCTV) channels that appeared between the year of 2007 to 2010 – a total of 320,653 advertisements. This paper is based on several data sets: advertisement producers, regional distribution of producers, advertisement time slots, types of advertisings, and other such categories. In addition, they have also studied city branding advertisings from international producers in terms of channel selections, program choices, and media outlet choices and so forth.

Through an analysis of quantity and total duration of city image advertisements, it can be concluded that first-tier cities have been reducing the broadcasting of city image ads domestically yearly, and third-tier cities are proving to be a significant power in producing city branding advertisements. Significantly, the eastern littoral region has surpassed the central and west region both in the duration and in growth rate of city branding advertisements. Moreover, between 2007 and 2010, a total of nine foreign cities have produced city branding advertisements on CCTV channels. Unlike cities in China, international cities have scattered their ads widely across different periods of one day.

Finally, based on analysis of advantages and disadvantages in city image advertisements strategies applied by those advanced cities at home and abroad, this author hopes this study can offer some scientifically based reference point for other cities.”

7. The business of place: critical, practical and pragmatic perspectives

Ares Kalandides.

This editorial is available online. Please click link above.

8. Developing a collective capacity for place management

Tore Omholt

The purpose of the paper is to develop and demonstrate an integrated framework for planning and supporting place management development and practices. This paper shows how the complexities facing place development can be conceptualized and dealt with in an effective and practical manner.

“First, the paper uses social systems theory as a meta-theoretical framework to integrate various theoretical perspectives on place interventions to deal with problems of uncertainty related to place development. Second, it shows how a combination of place interventions can be organized to deal with the uncertainties and contribute to a collective capacity for action. Finally, it concludes with presenting an integrated framework for planning and supporting place development, and applies this in two cases of place development to illustrate how it works.

In summary, effective place development requires a combination of information processing interventions to deal with the uncertainties facing place stakeholders. The success of the proposed framework has been repeated in several case replications and indicates a potential for supporting practitioners but the literature on social systems theory is on a high level of abstraction and further case applications are needed to assist practitioners.”

9. University students’ needs and satisfaction with their host city

Andrea Insch and Benjamin Sun.

Tertiary student perceptions and satisfaction with their host cities have been largely ignored. This study addresses this gap by identifying which attributes of cities are important to students, gauging students’ perception of their host city according to these attributes, and identifying the city attributes driving their satisfaction with their host city.

“The purpose of this study was threefold: to identify which attributes of the host university city are important to students; to assess students’ satisfaction with the key attributes of their host university city; and to determine the drivers of students’ overall satisfaction with their host university city.

A two stage, mixed methods research design was selected for this study. Focus groups comprised the first stage and a survey of 159 full time university students attending the university of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, comprised the second stage.

The survey findings indicate that students at the university of Otago perceive accommodation, socialising and sense of community, safety and cultural scene as the most important attributes of their host university city. Alternatively, the results of the regression analysis which assessed the relative strength of city attributes in explaining their overall satisfaction with Dunedin, demonstrated that shopping and dining, appeal and vibrancy, socialising and sense of community and public transport were the key drivers of their overall satisfaction with the city.

Students’ overall satisfaction with the city is relatively positive and they are most satisfied with socialising and sense of community, community assets, and the city’s natural environment. Overall, students’ expectations of the city’s attributes were reached and exceeded. However, their satisfaction with accommodation, the attribute that they ranked as the most important, was unmet. This shortfall in expectations has the potential to negatively impact the university’s image and encourage students to transfer somewhere else for further study if their most important need is not addressed.

As an important city stakeholder for university cities, students’ perceptions and satisfaction with their host city need to be given priority. University administrators in collaboration with city place managers should put effort into maintaining the city attributes which are important to students and which drive their satisfaction with the city experience, since they represent a large proportion of residents in university host cities. The consequences of their inattention to students’ needs could be harmful in the long-term.”

10. “Are you happy here?”: the relationship between quality of life and place attachment

António Joaquim Araújo de Azevedo, Maria João Ferreira Custódio and Fernando Pereira Antunes Perna

This study aims to develop a new insight (focused on residents) into the measurement of place attachment, self-esteem, self-efficacy and perceived happiness, in order to provide public policy makers with performance indicators for place marketing strategies.

“A survey applied to 641 residents of Portimão, the second most populated city in Algarve, in the south of Portugal, was conducted to assess the quality of life attributes and place attachment measures.

Findings revealed that the city’s quality of life attributes (comprising six dimensions) influence place attachment – which is significantly correlated with self-efficacy, perceived happiness and active citizenship behaviours.

As an input for the city policy makers, this research can contribute to a better knowledge and management of the factors that influence the residents’ well-being. For residents, it provided an opportunity for participation which may influence the public planning of the city.”

Using the Sustainable Communities Act

An update from Local Works

Following two years of campaigning, the government have made regulations that give town and parish councils the right to submit proposals under the Sustainable Communities Act.

This is a real ‘game changer’ for the Act: citizens and community groups can now submit proposals for specific actions from government to help their communities, local economies and the environment via their town or parish council as well as via their local authority. We expect to see a lot more proposals coming forward.

On Thursday 21st November Local Works are holding a public meeting in East London as part of their ongoing work to tell people and councils all about the Act and help them use it.

Anyone interested in East London can attend.

Details are as follows:

Thursday 21st November, 7pm to 9pm

Venue: Hackney CVS, 84 Springfield House, 5 Tyssen Street, London E8 2LY

Chair: Aimee Brannen, News Editor, Islington and Hackney Gazettes

Cllr Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor of Hackney Council
Shanaz Khan, Chair, East Trades Guild
Michael Calderbank, Sustainable Hackney
Steve Shaw, Local Works, National Co-ordinator

There will be free food and drink!

Portas Pilots – One Year On

There’s been a lot in the news this week about the Portas Pilots – so here is a round up and my view on some of the key issues that have been discussed.

Why have the Portas towns got high retail vacancy rates?

There are some forces of change that work on a national or even international level, affecting all town centres, such as the recession – people have less money to spend and e-commerce – more of people’s spend takes place on-line.

Then there are factors that impact on individual town centres, such as the size of the catchment – whether more or less people are living in the area, how many people work in the town centre, the retail and service offer, for example comparison or non-food retailing has suffered the most in the recession, food and service business have done better.

Other factors include its location (northern towns have higher vacancy rates than those in the south), size (small centres are more resilient than large) and their accessibility or the ease with which people can travel to other competing centres.

In the case of the Portas towns, what is more important is the long term vacancy rate. For example, pre-recession Stockport’s vacancy rate was 12.7% compared to a national average of 10.3% A long-term vacancy rate higher than the national average indicates a long-term problem, and in most cases, an over supply of retail floorspace.

Whilst the Town Teams can get behind the existing retail, this is difficult if it is spread all over town. A strategic approach to concentrating retail into the right-sized centre is also necessary.

Have the Portas Pilots got high churn rates?

In a word – no. You could not pick out a Portas Pilot accurately on the basis of the number of shops opening and closing in its centre. Croydon has the highest churn rate – but then it probably had the highest concentration of multiple retailers, and due to the amount that closed last year (HMV, Comet, Clinton Cards, JJB Sports, Blockbuster, and Thomas Cook etc.) it’s not surprising they have more of their share of 4,000 empty shops to fill.

As Croydon is in the more affluent south, then retailers are likely to be more attracted to relocate there, rather than Nelson in the poorer North.

Churn rates are higher everywhere.
There has been a dramatic fall in the length of leases on commercial properties over the past five years. Before the recession, the average length of a high street lease was 10 years. There’s no doubt the economic climate has meant property owners have had to offer more flexible lease arrangements –a third of high street leases are now less than 5 years.

So, retailers can relocate to more profitable locations – areas with higher footfall – or larger, more efficient retail space, more easily. In other words they are not so ‘trapped’ in locations, which previously kept the churn rate down.

Also, with shorter term and pop-up leases, rent and rate relief, more independent retailers are being attracted into premises that would not have been feasible for them before. However, like other small business, their failure rate is high. A small shop has about a 40% chance of being in business 5 years after opening.

In a survey we did of 600 small retailers in the UK less than a quarter had a business plan, many of them had no previous retail experience and did not invest in training. We found a significant relationship with having a business plan the number of years the shop was in business and turnover.

Without a business plan and some grounding in retaiing, new entrants may be making the wrong location decisions – based upon supply side factor considerations like the price of the unit, rather than whether there is real market demand for their offer and whether the shop is in a location that attracts enough footfall.

How can the Town Teams increase footfall?

In the short term – by making the most of the space and the assets they have. Markets, vintage fairs, festivals, promoting existing retailers through guides, websites etc. Free or cheap parking on its own will not encourage people to the centre if what they want isn’t there, if there is nothing to attract them, if they can’t find it – or the town is dirty or feels unsafe.

But longer term, towns need to have an offer that meets the needs of their users. Retail and consumer data should be used to undertake an analysis of the retail area and work out what is missing and what sort of businesses would do well. Small in-town or edge-of-town supermarkets are associated with lower vacancy rates. Towns should actively encourage certain types of retailer – by going to other locations and seeing what is missing and who they could attract. If a town doesn’t want a supermarket then it should consider options like a local food market.

Towns will need to accept that retail floorspace has to shrink by between 20-40% and should help surviving retail outlets concentrate in the same part of town. This is the strategic stuff that needs some vision and leadership. Towns should be thinking about what the other space can be used for, in terms of uses that will bring more people into the town centre; offices, education, sheltered housing… in the next 10 years over 12.4 million people will be over 64 so more people will need live near to locally accessibly shops and services as they may not be mobile enough to travel to shop or visit their GP.

How can the towns improve their image?

There’s been a lot of investment by towns and cities into rebranding. But behind every good brand you have to have a good product, so there’s no shortcut to the investment and effort needed in terms of getting the place product right.

However, place perceptions can offer lag behind reality – and if a town has a poor image it can take a long time to change that. Place ‘ambassadors’ should be engaged; these could be the local press or key stakeholders like local retailers, for example. Basically, people that can and are willing to ‘talk-up’ the town.

A rebranding exercise can be useful, if it is thought of as the ‘organising principle’ for integrating measures (e.g. events, media relations, residents’ participation). But it needs to capture the place’s distinctiveness and shouldn’t just be a trite slogan – like “open for business”. What town wouldn’t be open for business?

What’s all this about the night-time economy?

Reports by the Local Government Association show that the public and council offers are concerned about the proliferation of sex shops, betting shops and food take away outlets. But if a property is empty landlords will want to fill it. The problem is the landlord is very unlikely to live in the town that seemingly becomes plagued with late-night bars and take-aways etc.

Councils can stop operators by using licensing restrictions, but they may well be challenged – and this is expensive at a time when they have no cash. Splitting the economy into day and night isn’t very helpful. The economy should be seen as a whole – if a late-night takeaway causes a litter problem that puts people off using the town in the day then the net effect on the economy may be negative.

What sort of retailers are doing well?

Well it is not all doom and gloom on the high street. Primark has seen its sales shoot up 24% in the last 6 months (to March 2013). Unlike other retailers, it is not going on-line as it is concentrating on growth in its existing market and profitability from improving retail operational efficiency. So, for example, it is expanding the sales floor area in shops so it can sell even more.

Even though there is a decline in comparison retail (electricals, toys etc.) Argos has seen its sales grow by 3% because of its successful click and collect service. Whilst consumers like the convenience of shopping on-line, the delivery aspect can be very inconvenient – so the ability to order something and know you can pick it up is very compelling. Likewise, John Lewis and Waitrose have seen big growth in click and collect sales.

And lastly, footfall in towns that participated in last years ‘Love your Local Market’ increased by 4% (against a backdrop of 6% decline). There is a growth of the Totally Locally movement, and after the horsemeat and other scandals, more people want to know where their food comes from, and smaller food retail businesses can offer this more personal connection with the supply chain and this reassurance.

So, one year on – the same questions are being asked and answered – this is worrying as we need to move on to real action if we want to support our towns and high streets to change so they have a sustainable role in the future.

High street decline – what does the management and marketing literature suggest?

Whilst the drivers of change affecting high streets are complex and cross discipline boundaries, the management and marketing literature may offer some solutions. To simplify the literature, we have reviewed potential high street interventions under the broad categories of ‘repositioning’, ‘reinventing’, ‘rebranding’ and ‘restructuring’.

Repositioning is a strategy that can be used to counteract decline (Smith, 2004). Rapid economic, political, and social changes, are most likely to lead places to repositioning strategies that will allow them to identify potential competitive advantages (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2008). The focus of any interventions here should be on understanding the forces of change and the value of unique responses that reposition individual high streets, through building on distinct capabilities (such as local identity, Edensor, 1998) but are accommodative of future trends (such as an ageing population or the growth of m-commerce) and are therefore more resilient (Wrigley, and Dolega, 2011).

Reinventing should focus on elements of the place product within a framework of place marketing which suggests that any new developments should be guided by the marketing principle of meeting the needs/wants of identified target audiences (Ashworth and Voogd, 1990). The “reinventing” process of urban places can be built on activities that aim to revitalise a place’s identity and image; identity and image can be seen as both static (for communicative purposes in a fixed time) and dynamic, which recognises the uniqueness of each place and the difference in each stakeholder’s view about a place (Kalandides, 2011; Warnaby, 2011; Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013). It is the latter view that can be used as a driver for reinventing places such as high streets and city centres; a framework built on these premises can unarguably assist the development of rejuvenated, competitive retailing spaces, which will merge innovation and local place identity, and will be meaningful for all stakeholders (Coca-Stefaniak, Parker, Quin, Rinaldi and Byrom, 2009). Retailing is an important element of the urban place product, and “reinventing” this sector along with improvements on complimentary elements of place can contribute to a better understanding of the formation of the “holistic” place product (Warnaby, Bennison and Davies, 2005).

Rebranding should focus on the communication of image and identity as previous studies demonstrate that place consumers may find that the place experience meets or exceeds expectations whilst the image of the place is ‘problematic’ (Selby, 2004). Rebranding a place is mainly concerned with the application of branding, marketing communications, and public relations techniques in order to deliver a consistent place identity, which can form a sum of beliefs, ideas, and impressions in the minds of potential consumers of a place (Kotler & Gertner, 2002). It can be thought of as the ‘organising principle’ for integrating measures (e.g. events, media relations, residents’ participation). Place branding can evoke favourable place images that transfer emotional and self-expression values, as well as utilitarian attributes to individuals (Caldwell & Freire, 2004). These images are part of a place’s secondary communication efforts (Kavaratzis, 2004), which consists of various slogans, advertisements, and PR campaigns which aim to assist a place’s actions towards development. Successful place brand management can lead to positive word-of-mouth, and also assist in the transformation of negative images (Hanna & Rowley, 2011; Skinner, 2011). The need to identify how potential stakeholders can co-create the place brand is the focus of recent developments in place branding (Warnaby, 2009; Hatch and Schultz, 2010). High streets, and particularly the retail sector, with the multitude of stakeholders involved in it (users, brokers, fixers) (Pal and Sanders, 1997), can highlight the desires, needs, and views of those stakeholders, which can lead to a better understanding of how place brands are created and evolve (Kavaratzis, 2009; Hanna & Rowley, 2011; Kavaratzis & Hatch, 2013).

Finally, restructuring, should focus on forms of management and governance, including formal and informal (Coca-Stefaniak et al, 2009; Peel, 2003); regulatory, functional, and contractual (Lloyd and Peel, 2008; Peel et al, 2009) and modes of communication / knowledge exchange (Peel and Lloyd, 2008a, b). Consequently, the major point of interest is how high streets can be restructured in order to facilitate all the changes mentioned above. Place management and retail management are recognised as interdependent areas, and practices that entail both commercial and locational benefits is the best way forward (Bennison, Warnaby and Pal, 2010). Restructuring and cooperation of all place stakeholders and creation of strategic networks and transparent public-private relationships can nurture conditions for the sustainable development of a place (van den Berg and Braun, 1999; Rainisto, 2003). Physical restructuring is also another area which is encapsulated in place management and place marketing strategies; the proper use of current infrastructure (temporal) and the development of new retail spaces are major antecedents of place attractiveness and place development (Pike, 2010; Teller and Elms, 2010). In the case of retailing, the best spaces created from restructuring can enliven the high street and also shape a better image for the place which can enhance retail operations (Pal and Byrom, 2003).

This review has been written by Cathy Parker, Nikolaos-Foivos Ntounis and Mihalis Kavartzis for an Economic and Social Research Council Knowledge Exchnage Project : High Street UK 2020. The full list of references is available upon request. Please contact

Multiple retailers to appoint High Street Champions

In an initiative recently announced major retailers have pledged their support to local towns by providing High Street Champions.

The Co-op, Boots, Marks & Spencer and Wilkinson are just some of the high street retailers that say they are going appoint a local store manager to work in the community, to advance the revitalisation of their local high street.

Town centre manager readers will probably be wondering what all the fuss is about. There have been multiple retailer representatives on town centre partnerships over the past 20 years in the UK. However, over time, the initial enthusiasm from retailers like Sainsburys has reduced as has their their financial support.

Of course it is important to have all high street stakeholders working together. However, UK retailing is very centralised and hierarchical in decision-making. After the initial fanfare, just how involved local store managers can get into the ins and outs of the problems facing local high streets remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it makes sense. Not just to the high street but to the retailers themselves. Whilst multiple retailers benefit from national economies of scale, they all serve local markets. Having a better understanding of their contribution to the overall high-street product that serves a specific target market sounds like good business sense.

You can read more about the initiative at

Special Issue of Journal of Place Management and Development

Volume 6 Issue 1 is now available on early cite. This is the Special Issue: The Business of Place: Critical, Practical and Pragmatic Perspective that contains selected papers from the 3rd International Place Branding and 2nd Institute of Place Management Conference which is taking place 13th and 14th Feb. Congratulations to all our authors.

My Place is not Your Place – Different Place Brand Knowledge by Different Target Groups by Sebastian Zenker and Suzanne C. Beckmann

My City – My Brand: The Different Roles of Residents in Place Branding by Erik Braun, Mihalis Kavaratzis, and Sebastian Zenker

A Study on the Delivery of City Branding Advertisements in China: City Branding Advertisement on CCTV, 2007-2010 by Chunying Wen

Developing a Collective Capacity for Place Management by Tore Omholt

Slum Tourism, City Branding, and Social Urbanism: The Case of Medellin, Colombia by Jaime Hernandez-Garcia

The Tools for City Centre Revitalization in Portugal by Pedro Porfírio Coutinho Guimarães

Smart City Manchester

It’s a conference about Manchester. It’s not often I come to place rather than sector or discipline-based conferences. First up, Sir Richard Leese to welcome us.

He tells us the vision for Manchester – its no different to most of the others I see (and believe me, in my job I see a lot).

But here’s something different, we are not going to be big anymore – we are going to be smart. As an analogy, Manchester is going to compete in the world beer market as a micro brewery.

So what’s smart. Invest in people. Build their skills and pay them a living wage.

38% of the Greater Manchester Area are graduates (or higher or equivalent). Putting that in some context – it’s about 50% more than Birmingham.

But there’s to do, especially in technical education and early years. Council employees are getting the living wage, but lots of local people aren’t.

The second smart point is to be more autonomous. Less controlled by Central Government and more financially independent (less ‘handouts’).

Barbara Spicer, CE of Salford City Council then explained the governance structure and strategies of the Combined Authority (of all the councils that make up the city region).

They are unique – but are also, for anyone not in ‘the club’ they are complicated.

This leads into a question from me about how to communicate what the Combined Authority does so it can engage people into achieving the vision. After all, surely it’s our vision? I live and work in Manchester.

The answer? I have nothing to worry about – it is just a big public body. Hmmmm.

The rest of the conference looked at the various facets of making, maintenance and marketing of Manchester.

This conference is actually a very effective way to engage this group of delegates into place management in Manchester, or at least raise awareness of it.

What makes a good place marketing website?

I asked my Final Year Location Planning and Place Marketing students to come up with evaluation criteria to enable them to identify a good place marketing website from a bad one.  They then compared their criteria and found that they had all come up with very similar ones – and we tested them out on other sites to ensure they were robust.  There’s a list of all the websites we evaluated at the end of this blog.

What did we learn?  Well the criteria they decided upon were.

  1. Originality – communicating a sense of place.   Too many websites were similar, unless you looked at the web address you didn’t get any clues about where the place was.  Originality could be communicated through colourful place images and also, in some cases, comments and ‘breaking news’ stories coming through a discussion forum.
  2. Design – whilst originality was important, the best websites looked professional and modern.
  3. Navigation – the students liked the clearly structured sites, that weren’t ‘cluttered’ and were instinctive to navigate around.
  4. Inclusive – an interesting one; and a controversial criterion.  Some students liked the websites that had information for a wide group of stakeholders, including children.
  5. Targeted –others thought the websites that had a clear target audience (the type of ‘visit x’ websites) were better as it was clear what their offer was.
  6. Useful – the website needed to provide useful and current information.

On the whole, the more targeted the website the more sophisticated it was in marketing terms.  But we were investigating place marketing.  Some of the council or community websites were poor in digital marketing terms but were stronger in terms of ‘place’ – and communicated important information to the people that lived there. 

Just like places themselves, there are many stakeholders and it is hard to market a place to all these different stakeholders through one website.  In addition, as no-one owns any trademark (i.e. the place name) any group can set up a place marketing website.  Some students were surprised about the negative images of a place some websites portrayed but  everyone is entitled to air their own opinion about a place.

Have a look at the websites we reviewed and see what you think.  Which ones do you think are good or bad?  And why?

Surely, there is more to life than shopping?

Stephen Robertson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium announced that UK retail sales values were down by 0.4% on a like-for-like basis from August 2011, when they were down 0.6% on the preceding year.

He said “”there’s no evidence here of any Olympic boost to retail sales overall. Sadly, apart from April – distorted by Easter timings – August saw the worst sales growth this year”.

“Hot weather and the Olympics did help sales of party food and drink but that was more than offset by a really weak performance for non-food goods”.

“It’s clear people were absorbed by the magnificent Olympics and had little interest in shopping, especially for major items. Usually-reliable online sales suffered, putting in the worst sales growth since we started the measure four years ago. Some retailers told us online activity was particularly thin in the evenings. If people weren’t watching television they were more likely to be following the sport on PCs and mobile devices than shopping”.

Here at the IPM we feel we have our sense in human nature restored by such a story. Retailing is important…but is not everything. If people were enjoying the Olympics and not shopping then so be it. Come on BRC get a sense of perspective…….